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"There's no reason to turn back the clock, we're on the move. This is working." Margaret Spellings - Education Secretary.

But is it really? There is much more to life than test scores. Our good teachers know that when they oppose this program and its creation of robotic test takers. Good test takers spend hours daily honing specific skills they may never use again instead of learning how to think and how to use new tools.

This is not to say all drill is bad, for we all need reading, writing, listening and voicing skills if we are to participate in all the dialogue it is going to take to bring mindless Authoritarianism to its knees. Those of us who are dyslexic or learning disabled in other ways need special drills to be brought current with our peers. But the great majority of us respond better when we have enough freedom to pursue our own interests. Many enlightened school districts find ways to limit drill while motivating development of insight and the kinds of thinking necessary in our times.

Think what a different world it would be if each of us were immune to propaganda from the Right, Left, or dogma itself and could make up our own minds.

To be creative in preparing for lives in our increasingly fast-paced world full of issues becomes submerged by the frantic drill laid on by "No Child Left Behind." Life has little or nothing to do with test taking. Life is all about the new--and the challenges "new" brings. It requires learning how to learn more importantly than learning masses of robotic facts.

It seems much better for schools to reward creativity instead of focusing on performance in a structured environment that is remote from--and does not do enough to prepare one for--real life. K-12 should be a period of self generation for life's purpose.

With respect to education, any one-size-fits-all approach is a recipe for ultimate mediocrity as societies compete with one another in a new earth era some are already calling the Anthropocene (the era of humanity).

Of course, tradition requires standardized testing and drill, and so does most of the world. That does not make rote memorization right, but ages-old dogma dies hard. It may be that that marginal improvements in test scores will be sustained. But we must ask: How much of that improvement came by teachers and schools who cheat the system or students in any of a variety of ways. Funding driven by test scores works against inner schools as it tempts all to cheat by quietly dropping the less than gifted. Funding driven by test scores works against all but the most independent students--they sacrifice learning how to learn for learning itself, the rote variety.

If you still like drill as you received it, think a moment. Unless we can learn how to learn, we will fall short on insight, the kind needed to advance technology, improve social conditions, not to mention our own uniqueness as individuals. The latter of course extends to the voting booth, which just may be why Bush conceived the idea in the first place. Like that catchy phrase, "compassionate conservatism," "No Child Left Behind" is no more than hollow propaganda.

Under "No Child Left Behind", we train ourselves to be a nation of robots (sheep), when we need not only journeymen but towering intellects and enlightened leaders who read history seriously, looking for old solutions that work--as well as effective avenues that reveal themselves from time to time.

With mammoth problems facing humanity this century, we should, we must, start educating people for enlightenment--the kind that drove THE Enlightenment in its explosive expressions of creativity across all sectors of society.


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